There is a certain energy that has reappeared in the streets of Paris this past week. La Rentrée is upon us, that time when the kids go back to school and adults head back to work after long summer days in the sun. Suddenly, Paris has transformed from the sleepy town it was for all of August to a buzzing hive of activity. The tourists who descended upon Paris in droves while the summer was in full swing have begun to disappear (though of course never completely) and they have been replaced by Parisians resuming their daily lives.
Taking 4 weeks of vacation seems bizarre and impractical to many outside of France, but here it is the norm. As we explained in a couple of our posts from August, life in Paris comes to a virtual standstill during the summer. Suddenly, it becomes impossible to get your haircut, visit the dentist or even get your daily baguette from your neighborhood boulangerie. It seems like everyone in the city has left to spend time somewhere by the beach. Those who stay tend to get very little work done, constantly running into vacation messages on telephones and emails.
However, there are certain visible benefits to taking a month-long break. Now, the city is full of happy, energized people. Everyone seems to be sporting a tan. Maybe it is just a strange sort of luck I have at the moment, but even the bureaucrats seem to be in a good mood. Instead of the usual “Euh, ben non c’est pas possible,” I’ve gotten a lot of “Oui, bien sûr !” This will most likely quickly wear off in a couple of weeks, but right now I am savoring it.
This return to normalcy means a return to work and a return to school. Everyone is catching up on the work they put off during their long vacations. People are using all that extra energy gained from dozing in the sun to work diligently on projects. Everyone seems more productive than they were before leaving for les vacances.
School started this week, so the streets are full of kids heading off to school. After dropping their children off, parents cluster outside of the schools and chat about their vacations. Just the other morning, I awoke to the sounds of a large group of parents drinking coffee together at the café down the street. The noise and the energy of the gathering shocked me after several months of relative silence. Life in Paris is back in full swing.
Bonne rentrée !